EXCHEQUER BILL AFFAIR.
CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 4, 1841.
It being generally understood that the trial of Edward Beaumont Smith, for the forgery of Exchequer Bills, would take place to-day, the Court was crowded at an early hour. On the bench we noticed Lord Monteagle, Sir Thomas Troubridge, Sir John Dean Paul, and several influential persons in the City. Shortly before ten o'clock, the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, and Sir Thomas Wilde, entered the Court, and took their seats within the Bar. At ten o'clock Mr. Baron Parke took his seat on the Bench, and the prisoner was immediately placed at the Bar. He appeared collected, but looked
Mr. Clarke, the Clerk of the Arraigns, then said- " Edward Beaumont Smith, you are indicted for that you on the 10th of August last, at the parish of Saint Martin's in-the-Fields, did feloniously forge a certain Exchequer bill, dated the 16th of June, 1841, and numbered 6,405, for the sum of £1,000, with interest, to defraud Her Majesty the Queen. In a second count you are charged with feloniously uttering and putting off a like Exche- quer bill. In other counts you are charged in a like manner with intent to defraud Thomas Spring Baron Monteagle, Comptroller-General of Her Majesty's Ex- chequer ; and in two other counts you are charged in a like manner with the intent to defraud Francis Townly Ibbertson. Are you guilty or not guilty ?"
The prisoner, in a firm voice, said, " My Lord, I plead Guilty."
Mr. Baron Parke then directed the Clerk of the Arraigns to call the prisoner up for judgment.
Mr. Clarke-" Edward Beaumont Smith, you stand convicted, upon your own confession, of forgery. Have you anything to say why the Court should not give you judgment according to law ?"
The prisoner then read the following address in a low tone of voice, and apparently uuder feelings of great
" I pray your Lordship's indulgence while I offer a few words to your consideration before you discharge the duty which my conduct has imposed upon you. that of passing sentence upon me. I would have received that sentence in respectful silence, and have thereby shortened the period of my painful exposure as a public criminal at this bar, and would have returned in penitence to my cell, did I not feel it that I owe it to public justice, to the innocent persons whom my conduct may have placed in circumstances of suspicion, and also to myself, to say a few words. The crime I have committed is great. I do not attempt to excuse, or to extenuate it ; but it will not be forgotten that I have submitted myself to meet and exclusively to bear all the consequences of that crime, and I have not sought to screen myself by the addition of dupli- city or meanness, and I respectfully implore the Court not to think that I do not feel all the weight and enormity of the offence itself, because I humbly call its attention to circumstances which are calculated to show that I have not become altogether debased in my feelings and prin- ciples. Pecuniary difficulty, arising from misplaced con- fidence, and unconnected with discredit, and of very limited extent, not exceeding a few hundred pounds, although beyond my means to meet, first exposed me to the suggestions of those who tempted me to obtain a tem- porary relief by the fraudulent fabrication of Exchequer bills, to be pledged for a short time, and then to be redeemed and cancelled forever. I yielded to the temptation, but without obtaining the promised relief, and once com- mitted, I became in the power of the tempter, and my retreat has been prevented. Allured and beguiled by a plausibility, power, and talent which I could not resist, I became entaugled beyond escape, and while Exchequer bills were obtained from me to an enormous extent, I never derived benefit even to the small extent necessary to relieve me from my comparatively trifling embarrass- ments, and I am at this moment in debt for money actually borrowed from sources unconnected with Exchequer bills lo pay off my original incumbrances. A sordid or avari- cious motive has never influenced me, and I have been sacrificed to the objects of others. Whatever speculations may have been carried on by those who have used these Exchequer bills, no profit, or even account either of monies raised, or speculations entered into, or of the losses or gains which have resulted, have ever reached me, and never was intended to do so. Year after year bills have been wrung from me, under pretence of redeem- ing and cancelling those outstanding, in order to prevent discovery, and afterwards, by the repeated misapplication of them, the necessity was created for more to accomplish the original purpose; and thus the frightful issue which has taken place was occasioned. If those yet unstained by guilt could appreciate the horrors which attend a course of crime, no sentence of the law would be neces- sary to warn and deter them from entering upon it. I am born of a family upon which disgrace never lighted till now; educated in principles of integrity and honour, I have lived respected, and, I believe, esteemed ; and I have enjoyed the confidence of many highly honourable persons. I am now, by my own confession, a guilty cri- minal, exposed and trembling at the bar of justice, and shrinking with agony from the gaze of my former friends. If any there are who are disposed to think my principles and education aggravate my crime, let them forbear their censure till they have also estimated by how much they deepen my condition, aud aggravate my punishment. I have lived for years in the certain anticipation of this dreadful hour, and knowing that it was certain to come, except, overborne by my own feelings, I should escape it by a still greater crime or by flight, uncertain how soon the period of detection would occur, every day, aud almost every hour, has awakened some alarm lest it should have arrived, and that my character, station, and comfort were destroyed for ever. My Lord, during the time that has past I have had the guilty means and strong temptation to use Exchequer bills, to raise sufficient money to enable me to fly, and thereby escape my present disgrace. But however the word honour may be supposed lo be prostituted by my using it, I yet declare that I have benn restrained from flying, or raising money for such a purpose, because I knew that in my absence suspicion would arise that others had been either negligently or criminally instrumental in the commission of the fraud, and that public alarm would be the consequence to a greater extent than the evil justified. During the long period of my distress, therefore, although I was overcome,
and induced to continue the commission of my offences to avoid meeting immediate disgrace, and forbore to make a full disclosure of my previous conduct, which I had often desired to do ; I yet always resolved that whenever the time of discovery should come that I would remain and instantly avow myself as the solely guilty official person, and make the best reparation in my power, by preventing unnecessary alarm and agitation to the public, and that I would bear, with whatever pain and remorse, the whole consequence of my guilt, and not permit the innocent and honourable persons in office, whether high or low, to be exposed to unjust suspicion. However guilty, therefore, I yet am voluntarily a prisoner, and destitute of means, having acted under the influence of feelings much more consonant with my general character than are the acts which have brought me tothis bar; and you, my Lord, by the depositions before you, will have learned that with ample opportunity to escape, and when suspicion had not in the slightest degree alighted upon me, I, unasked, made to the respectable Solicitor of the Treasury the most distinct confession that I was the sole official author of the mischief, and instantly submitted myself to the doom which now awaits me, and which presents the prospect of the remainder of my life, bereft of everything that can render life desirable, and as a means only by its continuance of protracted punishment to me, and of wretchedness to those near and dear to me, and who are interested in the fate of so unhappy a being. The only use of that life now must be to enable me, by the fittest disclosure of every part of the transactions, to diminish the consequences of my crime, and, as much as possible, to offer the only atonement in my power; and, dreadful as every one perceives my present situation to be, I can declare that, whatever may await me, the horror cannot equal what I have endured during the years of anticipa- tion of the discovery of my guilt. My Lord, I await your Lordship's sentence in a spirit of respectful submission, and repeat that I know my crime has been great, but I also feel assured that in the execution of your high func- tions, and in the judicial censure of my offences, your Lordship will never be unmindful that mercy is the best attendant upon justice, and that while the best of men need to cry aloud for mercy at Heaven's bar, it should not be forgotten in the administration of justice upon earth."
The prisoner appeared to be deeply affected at several parts of the address, more particularly when he alluded to his family, and the disgrace he had entailed upon those who were near and dear to him. When he had concluded, be leaned heavily against the bar, with his head hanging down, as if unable to support himself.
Mr. Baron Parke said-"The course you have pursued on this occasion, in publicly acknowledging yourself guilty of the heinous offences imputed to you, and which I learn, from the depositions and from yourself, have been carried on for a long series of years back, leaves to me only the duty of announcing to you the punishment which the law assigns to your offence. It is a painful duty to me, but it would have been a much more painful one had I to pronounce that punishment which was assigned to it a few years ago ; because I should have had to announce to you, notwithstanding all that you have said in the way of palliation, that your life must be forfeited to the law, and that you should perish by an ignominious death on the scaffold. The humanity of the law now prevents that, and leaves you time for repentance. But notwithstanding what you have said, and the contrition you have expressed, you must have been aware of the tremendous conse- quences of the crime of which you have acknowledged yourself guilty, and which it now my duty to pronounce upon you. That to me is a painful duty to discharge, because I am sorry to pronounce it upon a person who has filled a situation of trust and confidence, who has walked in the station of a gentleman, and who belongs to a family of the highest honour and respectability, and whose name is illustrious in the naval annals of this country. It is painful for me to pronounce the sentence of the law upon you ; but, looking at the consequences of your crime, and the deep injury it has inflicted upon society, I can do no less than to pass upon you the sever- est sentence which the law allows the Court to pronounce, namely, that of transportation for life. You have done yourself no discredit by the course you have pursued-you have done yourself no harm ; and I trust that those who may hear the statement that has fallen from your lips to- day, may take warning, and see what fatal consequences are the result of a single deviation from the principles of honour and integrity. It is impossible not to feel for you as a man ; but as a magistrate it is my duty to censure in the strongest language I can the wicked crime you have committed, which has entailed ruin upon hundreds of individuals, and loss to many of their whole fortune, all in consequence of the want of principle you have shown. Under these circumstances, I should be wanting in my duty if I held out to you the least hope that the severest sentence of the law will not be carried into effect-a sen- tence which, as you yourself have said, consigns you to punishment for life bereft of all that renders life desirable. By law, for the rest of your existence, you will be a slave in a foreign land, and condemned to hard labour. The sentence of the Court upon you, Edward Beaumont Smith, is, that for this offence you be transported beyond the seas for the term of your natural life."
The prisoner here fell back into the arms of Mr. Cope, and was assisted by him and one of the officers down the
stairs of the dock.-Sun.
Edward Beaumont Smith, who is charged with being principal in the frauds in Exchequer Bills, is son of C. D. Smith, Esq., who was Governor of Prince Edward's Island from 1816 to 1823. He was removed from the government of the island in consequence of his exaction of quit-rent contrary to royal instructions. Notwithstand- ing his disgrace, and a strong remonstrance from the inhabitants of the island, Sir Robert Peel granted him a pension of £500 per annum, during the time he was in office in 1831, which he still enjoys. Sir Robert justified the grant of a pension on the ground of Mr. C. D. Smith
being the brother of Sir Sidney Smith, the hero of Acre.-
The unhappy Beaumont Smith, who has received the sentence of transportation for life at the Central Criminal Court, for forging Exchequer bills, was twice married. His second wife, to whom he had not been many months united when the recent discovery was made, is an elegant and accomplished woman, about the prisoner's own age, and was, before he married her, the widow of a clergyman of the Church of England. Mr. Smith was much esteemed and respected by every one who knew him ; and so little was he suspected of being implicated in the affair, even after the forgeries had been discovered, that Mr. Maule, the Treasury Solicitor, after a partial investigation of the circumstances of the case, went to him and said, " A mine is about to be sprung, Smith ; but, thank God, it will not affect you or me !" The result, however, unhappily proved how little ground there was for Mr. Maule's con- fidence, as far as Smith was concerned. Until after he had resolved to divulge his guilt, he preserved his self- possession in an extraordinary degree; and, two days only before he was known to be involved in the transac- tion, an intimate friend asked him what was the meaning of the rumours in the city, to the effect that there was something wrong in the Exchequer Bill-office, when he replied, in an apparently indifferent manner, " Oh, we never talk of these things !''-Sun.
While Smith was detained at Gardner's Lane Station- house, on the 25th Nov., he unbosomed himself to In- spector Hellings, whose deposition was read-
The prisoner said he was in much trouble of mind, and had been so for some time, and hoped his wife would be able to stand it. He said he had broached it to her on Saturday, and it came upon her like a clap of thunder. The first difficulty he had was lending his name for £100 to a friend, which came back; and he gave another bill in his own name, which he either said had come back, or he had borrowed money at an extraordinary interest. His difficulties increased from that time to the amount of ,£1,80O; and, finding himself so awk- wardly situated, having no money to recover himself, (for to take the benefit of the act would be the loss of his situation,) his friend advised him to get some Exchequer Bills; which he did, in an evil hour. They were blank bills, and 14,000 was raised upon them. Mr. Henings remarked that was a large sum ; and he said it was, but it was done to relieve him from his difficulties. He said his friend promised the blank papers should be returned. He asked if one Levi was in custody, for he had disposed of £6,000 worth of bills. Mr. Henings ob- served, that it was wonderful such an amount of bills could have gone into the market without being detected. The pri- soner said it was almost impossible to discover the forgeries ; if the bills were shuffled, he could pick out the black sheep. The money with which they had speculated had in almost every instance failed. They had speculated largely in the British Iron-works previously to the Chancellor's decision, which was contrary to what they had expected: it was done with a view to turn themselves round, but it went against them. The prisoner afterwards said, a gentleman named Rapallo, who had been engaged in the Bonaparte expedition to France, was the friend whom he had mentioned in the commencement of the discourse.-Colonial Gazette.